New Microwave System Could Revolutionize Food Production
James Anderton posted on June 16, 2015 |

Denver-based 915 Labs has created the Microwave Assisted Thermal Sterilization System (MATS), a development which could quickly revolutionize how we look at packaged foods.

For about 100 years, processing food has been done by the retort process, sealing the food in a can or a pouch and placing it in a pressurized cooker with temperatures around 250 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for about an hour so.

This process sterilizes the food, but also tends to destroy any nutrients as well. MATS process may address that issue.

The technique heats the food packaging from the outside in a hot water bath while microwaving the food at a frequency around 915 MHz. This is about three times the wavelength of domestic microwave ovens, dispersing heat more evenly throughout the package and eliminating those cool spots we’re unfortunately used to. The package is cooled rapidly after processing.

Using MATS, you can kill the micro-organisms inside the package at a fraction of the time it takes with conventional retort processes. This of course means there is less time spent damaging nutrients in the food.

This technology can be used on all kinds of foods, including MRE’s (Meal Ready-to-Eat) commonly used in the military. Texture, flavor and color are better preserved according to 915 Labs.

MATS is designed by the food engineering scientist, Juming Tang at Washington State University, with a consortium of private food packaging and equipment companies along with the US Department of Defence.

Pilot scale versions of this process, called MATS-B are already in use at two packaging companies, AmeriQual of Evansville, Indiana and Wornick of Cincinnati, Ohio. These companies are allowing other firms to come in and take a look at the process.

The company expects widespread installation in North American food processing plants will happen by 2016.

You could do about 150 food packages per hour with this system in its current form and it may be implemented around the world. There are a wide range of potential uses and I think MATS could potentially revolutionize how we think about process packaged foods.

To learn more about MATS and 915 Labs, visit 915labs.com.

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